The murky waters of Tower Hamlets politics have been further muddied over the last week by accusations of homophobia by Labour councillor Anne Lynch [pictured], which have been repeated as fact by Rachel Sanders on Labour List in a desperate attempt to implicate the independent mayor, Lutfur Rahman through guilt by association.
Tower Hamlets Respect Party chair Carole Swords beleives that there are some in the Labour Party who have jumped to conclusions about homophobia, and given the climate of Islamophobia, they should be more reflective:
“Completely unjustified accusations were levelled against Muslim members of the public gallery at last week’s council meeting by a Labour councillor. That councillor claimed a homophobic comment was made, an allegation vehemently denied by those against whom this accusation was made. When some of the public remonstrated with that councillor, she then claimed she was being threatened. Now the chair of the local Labour Party, Carli Harper-Penman, has not only repeated these unfounded allegations against Muslim members of the public, she has sought to smear the Mayor Lutfur Rahman that he failed to act on the basis of these allegations.
“Given these claims were contested and not one council officer heard the comments despite their presence in the public gallery, both he and the council’s chief legal officer Isabella Freeman acted perfectly appropriately. The same cannot be said of the Labour chairman of the council who cleared the public gallery on the basis of these unsupported allegations. I conclude that Labour is motivated by a desire to smear sections of the Muslim community who do not support Labour and the Mayor and his administration. This is quite disgusting but sadly entirely consistent with the campaign of denigration systematically carried out by sections of the Labour Party for many months if not years.”
Councillor Fozol Miah has written to Kevan Collins, the Chief Executive of Tower Hamlets Council pointing out that the allegations of a homophobic comment are very serious, and that Councillor Anna Lynch’s account of the incident is not corroborated by other people who were there:
I have seen a letter sent to you by Carli Harper-Penman. I have to say I am disgusted by the contents of that letter.
Councillor Lynch claimed she heard a homophobic comment. This was vehemently denied by all those in the vicinity of where she claimed the comment came from. Officers present also said they heard no such comment. Councillor Lynch then claimed that she was threatened and/or intimidated by someone because of the comments she had made. Again, absolutely no evidence of this was forthcoming.
We take homophobia very seriously and we would not hesitate to condemn any homophobic comments or actions, but we have seen and heard no evidence that any such event too place last Wednesday. The same applies to any threat that might be made to a councillor. We would condemn any such action but we have seen no evidence that such an action took place. In the absence of such evidence, these allegations constitute a slur against at least a section of the public who attended the council’s budget setting meeting, as is their democratic right.
Although we in the Respect Party have had our disagreements with the Assistant Chief Executive Legal Services in the past, on this occasion, I believe that she acted entirely correctly. However the chairman of the council, on the other hand, acted quite wrongly to clear the public gallery in the face of these unsubstantiated allegations. Our democracy is limited enough without this kind of high-handed action which I believe owed more to Labour playing political games. It is the chairman of the council who owes an apology to the public he ejected from the meeting.
I very much hope that Councillor Harper-Penman’s letter will be rejected by you for the political shenanigans it represents.
Councillor Fozol Miah, Town Hall, Mulberry Place, London E14 2BG
A further letter has been written by someone who was in the public gallery, complaining to Isabella Freeman, Chief Legal Officer of Tower Hamlets Council about the behaviour of Councillor Anna Lynch:
Dear Ms Freeman,
I am writing to register a complaint against Councillor Anna Lynch regarding her behaviour at yesterday’s Council Budget Meeting.
Councillor Lynch falsely accused a group of us in the public gallery of calling out ‘poofta’ , whilst Councillor Peter Golds was addressing the chamber. I believe that her accusation was based purely on prejudice, as she haphazardly selected a Muslim group to blame. It was deeply insulting and shameful to be accused of such heinous behaviour.
It was subsequently confirmed by other members of the public and council officers that they didn’t hear such a remark being made. We thought the issue had been resolved at that point.
However, during the recess she approached some police officers at the corridor and told them that she was being threatened by members of the public; the police took no notice of her allegations, as it lacked any substance.
Subsequently, she entered the public gallery and provoked a young man and he called her ‘a liar’. I believe she did this to substantiate her false allegation of being threatened. She then proceeded to inform the Chair of the Council that she had been threatened.
The Chair of the Council then asked Shiraz Haque, a respected businessman and community leader, to leave the public gallery, as he believed he had threatened Councillor Lynch. After an uproar from the public gallery, the Chair realised that Mr Haque wasn’t culpable of the accusation and he decided to ask another member of the public to leave. The Chair had no control of the meeting and indiscriminately chose members of the public to evict.
During my time as a community activist, I have led many deputations and petitions to the council. I have attended many council meetings and have never witnessed such mischievous behaviour from a councillor. The meeting descended into a travesty due to the actions of Councillor Lynch. Members of the public took valuable time out of their schedule to participate in local democracy. For many members it was the first council meeting they had attended. What they witnessed was an utter disgrace.
I am demanding a written apology from Councillor Lynch for her false allegations and role in descending the meeting into chaos. I trust you will forward my complaint on to the standards committee.
Mahbub Alam (Mamun)
CC: Mayor Lutfur Rahman, Dr Kevan Collins
Clearly given the seriousness of these allegations, then there needs to be an inquiry. If it is true that Councillor Lynch has made false allegations, then she is playing a dangerous game in seeking to stoke up antagonisms in the borough. Homophobia is far too serious an issue to be used as a political football.